I thought I’d share this observation with my fellow Planners, as you may find this interesting …
My family is heading to Orlando for Thanksgiving week. I have booked five nights off-property and two nights at a Deluxe Universal resort. I have been religiously watching WDW Resort / Disney Springs / Bonnet Creek prices on all booking sites, in conjunction with plans/rumors for early/late entry hours, possible FastPass return, ADR windows, etc. Of course, Hotwire and Priceline hotels aren’t really going to open up much yet for that week, and I hate the idea of not exactly knowing what I’m booking despite my tracker for cross-referencing data to figure this out, so I’m not sold on that direction, but I’m open to the idea if needed.
Recently I have been getting ads to buy a $99 membership for the new TripAdvisor Plus service when I search for Orlando hotels. I’ve been looking all over the place for reviews for this service, but since it really only launched last month, they don’t exist except for two people who had bad experiences internationally. (Why would you use a brand-new service for international travel?!?!) Ads claim that members will save an average of $350/trip, and as incentive to advertise, TripAdvisor tells advertisers that members will book longer stays on average.
Well, I can spend $8/month on worse crap. May as well try it so I can at least SEE what prices are being offered. I coughed up the $99.
I found significant savings. It really was Hotwire & Priceline prices but with known hotels. And there was a decent amount of properties available (although no Disney properties obviously). For example, I clicked on the Dolphin and found 6 nights at $193/night plus $39 resort fee (“partially refundable” - whatever that means; I read as non-refundable), versus Marriott’s member price $295 plus $35 resort fee (refundable). Swan was similar ($204, I think). The Waldorf-Astoria was a little more expensive but refundable. Note that the entire booking had to be paid for in advance minus the resort fees, which were due at check-in.
I didn’t pull the trigger on anything. I’m going to keep watching. I expect more rooms will continue to open up and I’m curious how that will impact lodging costs. For now, I’ll keep my $89/night - no fees and free parking - reservation at the Homewood Suites. (My husband thinks I’m insane for thinking I’ll get anything of better value than what I already have. Ooh - I smell a challenge! ) And as a planner, I love watching and analyzing and wondering … That’s half the joy in a Disney vacation, isn’t it??
Anyway, if you’re looking for another way to save money, this might be something you want to look into. Let me know if you try it, or if you have other thoughts/observations regarding this or similar services!